Tech Tools to Solve the Parking Crunch

Parking is a major cause of traffic congestion and urban air pollution. How can technology help?

It’s a problem that practically every city dweller is familiar with: reaching a destination, only to find there’s nowhere to park.

A recent research project compiled by University of California-Los Angeles professor Donald Shoup found that it can take the average driver up to 14 minutes to find a parking spot. As much as 74 percent of parking congestion in major urban centers results from drivers looking for parking.

Clearly, parking is a major contributor to urban traffic and pollution problems. In searching for solutions, individual drivers and municipalities, businesses, and universities can take advantage of new technological tools to make parking easier, faster and more efficient.    

A Great Start: Smarter Parking

Here are a few examples of the innovative, technology-driven strategies municipalities are using to help manage parking-related issues:

San Francisco – The SFPark system  is one of the most successful examples of dynamic, technology-based solutions to parking challenges. Interfacing directly with the city’s parking infrastructure, SFPark tracks availability in real time, alerting users to parking garages that have the greatest number of available spaces. Drivers can head straight to where the parking is, rather than wasting time and fuel searching for a spot.

Boston – In Boston’s south end, similar technology is in use. A new app, called the Parker, displays parking availability information in real time, and also delivers turn-by-turn directions to drivers.

Minnesota – A recent collaboration between the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies and MnDOT uses cameras to automatically detect parking available at truck stops. Real-time data is made available through the web, electronic road signs, and even in-cab messaging.

Sydney – The city of Sydney has developed its own unique take, designed for commuters who drive into the city for work. There, drivers can use an app developed by parking company Divvy to find vacant spaces available for rent in buildings. Commuters can save hundreds of dollars a month by renting a spot instead of paying for street parking, all while eliminating congestion.

Even Better: Reduce the Need

Making the most efficient use of available parking is an important step, but an even more effective route is reducing the need for parking by making it easier for people to carpool, bike, walk, or take public transit. To that end, here are some proven techniques organizations use to cut back on parking demand:

  • Colleges and universities can launch rideshare networks and vanpool services, or subsidize public transportation passes to get people using alternative modes. These campus parking solutions can save schools huge amounts of money by liberating them from the need to build onerous and expensive new parking facilities.
  • Businesses who own or lease their parking facilities can use innovative techniques to encourage employees to ditch the solo drive in favor of smart alternatives. Proven strategies to reduce enterprise parking costs include parking cash-out programs, earn-a-bike programs, and challenge and incentive programs that reward commuters for sharing rides, using transit, or adopting active commuting.
  • Government employers can use similar techniques to drive behavior change and scale down parking demand. Maximizing government parking is especially important, since public funds are used to cover operating costs.
  • Municipalities are moving toward strategies that make solo driving and parking less appealing from a cost perspective. Faced with more expensive parking and other tolls, many would-be solo motorists will make better use of available alternatives.

All of these programs and policies can be designed, promoted, refined, and administered with advanced software tools specifically designed for the transportation demand management market.

Manage Parking Needs with the RideAmigos Platform

Transportation demand management software like the RideAmigos platform offers powerful tools for managing parking assets and reducing parking demand. Our software can integrate with parking infrastructure in dynamic ways, and it can also help you create and manage programs that reduce or even eliminate the need for parking altogether. Through powerful trip planning tools and highly customizable incentive programs, our platform helps users take advantage of the many available alternatives to solo driving.

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Photo Credit: Steve Morgan

7 Ways NOT to Change Commuter Behavior

Getting people to think about commuting in new ways is an essential step towards bringing positive change to your community. The best way to solve problems like traffic congestion, parking availability, parking expenses and pollution is to get people using alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. When this is done at an organizational level, the beneficial impact can be immense.

However, when it comes to creating change, some strategies work better than others. The RideAmigos team has decades of combined urban transportation management experience, and we’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned efforts fall flat:

  • Lack of incentive. Abstract notions of saving the environment or reducing company costs won’t drive change. Instead, give commuters something tangible to work toward.
  • Make participation difficult. If your alternative transportation program is confusing or difficult to use, people will likely revert to their original behaviors. Seek easy solutions!
  • One-off events and programs. Giving away a few gift cards or holding an annual Bike to Work Week might get some people to give alternatives a try, but these approaches by themselves aren’t likely to lead to lasting change. Ongoing support is a must.
  • Leading with a bad example. Is your business trying to encourage employees to rethink how they commute? Are the company’s executives and senior staff members doing it? If not, you shouldn’t expect success until the bosses start showing up in buses, bikes and carpools.
  • Ideas without tools. Even if people are open to changing their habits, it’s hard to do if you don’t provide them with tools. Sending out encouraging emails is a good start, but providing secure bike storage, free transit tokens and trip-finding or carpooling apps show you’re serious.
  • Guilt and shaming. Research has proven that making people feel guilty and ashamed of their actions is among the least effective ways to enact behavioral change.
  • Failing to consider context. Do most of your commuters drive more than 10 miles to work? If so, biking won’t be a popular option. Similarly, public transit won’t work if they’re not near a bus or subway line. Don’t focus on just one solution, and make sure what you’re selling makes sense.

If you’re looking to encourage commuters to make a long-term shift to community-friendly modes of transportation, we recommend that you avoid these strategies and seek out proven solutions. At RideAmigos, we know what works, what doesn’t, and why. Learn more about our approach to effective commuter engagement, and sign up for our newsletter for more great commuter tips!

Photo by @seawonkery

Top 4 Ways to Engage Commuters for Bike to Work Week

May is National Bike Month, and Bike to Work Week is right around the corner – May 16-20. Getting people excited about this event is a great way to help change how they think about commuting. Here are four creative ways to encourage greater levels of local participation:

Launch a Challenge

Tapping into the spirit of competition is one of the most powerful ways to engage people. Challenges give participants an added incentive to put forth their best effort, and few things are more rewarding than seeing hard work pay off in the standings.

Incentivize Bike to Work Week by making challenge winners eligible to claim prizes. See the clash of wills heat up as the race intensifies, all for a positive cause.

Organize a Bikepool Group

Organize a Bike to Work week cycling group to give those who feel safer riding with others a place to engage. Bikepools are ideal for experienced cyclists who want to share tips with newbies and for first-time or inexperienced riders who want to be part of a team.

Help your existing bike commuters to connect with their neighbors, form a group, and share the bike-to-work love!

Discover New and Interesting Routes

Bicycling is a great way to explore your city from a different perspective. Take a scenic path through a park or along a river. Follow a journey plan through a historic or artistic quarter. Find the best streets for biking.

Encourage Bike to Work Week participants to discover and share unique, little-known and interesting alternate routes to get to and from work.

Suggest Multimodal Options

People who have long commutes often feel like they can’t take part in Bike to Work Week. Suggesting ways to combine biking with other modes of transportation might change their mind.

More and more municipalities are working to make combining cycling with public transit a viable option for commuters. Buses and commuter trains are being outfitted with bike racks. Major stations and transit hubs offer secure, low-cost, or free on-site bicycle storage. Let your longer-distance commuters know about these possibilities so they can bike, too!

Try some of these ideas to engage your commuters during bike to work week and who knows – cycling might even become a habit!


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